9.16.10 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 6

SteveBlanchardHeadshotWhat is happening to our LGBT community?

As a group that usually prides itself on inclusion of diversity and acceptance, there is a growing faction that is now tearing down organizations, individuals and businesses by spreading spiteful rumors and lies. You don’t have to look much farther than your own inbox for evidence.

For too long our community has placed too much stock in rumor. Now, with advances in technology and new media, its spread is more toxic than ever. The “I read it online” basis of “fact” is used far too often and results in misinformation spreading throughout the community. At Watermark, we hear just about every false allegation imaginable—either through professional channels or in social settings. Just this past weekend I heard two or three rumors about area organizations so exaggerated and contrary to what I know to be true that I dismissed them immediately. Everyone should take note and get facts straight before sharing information that could be harmful to others.

This is not to say that we should not express our opinions or that investigative journalism shouldn’t be a priority. There is a healthy dialogue about the candidates for Orange County Mayor and their positions on LGBT issues that has accelerated discussion on the internet. In Tampa Bay, a discussion about the first Pride on 7th celebration has focused on opinions about the meaning and purpose of such events.

But there is a marked distinction between meaningful conversation and out-right in appropriate attacks.

Throughout the region, people are talking about a widely distributed attack on a proprietor of one of the new, local LGBT community websites. The letter was inflammatory, to say the least, and was made even more so when the source chose to remain anonymous.

A recent column attacking Equality Florida and its executive director, Nadine Smith, was published in OMG! Magazine and attributed to “Alice Baggadonuts,” which simply showcases the author’s cowardly nature. When some person or organization has strong beliefs and wants to convey facts supporting those beliefs, they should not be afraid to disclose their true identity.

The column praised the advocacy group Stand Up Florida and addressed some interesting talking points relating to how such organizations should operate. However, condemning Smith as a publicity hound or accusing her of profiting from her position without seeking comment from her first is unprofessional and offensive.

For the sake of the community they claim to support, all LGBT advocacy groups should state their goals and opinions factually and professionally. Petty and personal conflicts serve to block advances toward true equality.

LGBT advocacy groups need to get on the same page for the sake of our state, and our community leaders need to act with the professionalism entrusted upon them and get to work. These petty school yard tactics are tired and should be retired immediately. Our community deserves better.

Groups geared toward business need to focus on their business and not spread untruths about competition in order to get ahead. Like the Metropolitan Business Association in Orlando, The Tampa Bay Business Guild and the GaYbor Coalition, all have the same goal—to help LGBT businesses grow and succeed. They should focus on that goal and avoid attacking unaffiliated or competitive businesses or organizations. Leave the he said/she said tactic to the politicians.

I challenge all of the LGBT organizations within our state to stop the infighting. It has gone too far and has proven to be a distraction. It has hindered progress.

The daily news proves that there are plenty of groups outside the LGBT community attacking us at every opportunity and waiting for a weakness to show in our ranks. The power and money behind them is frightening and they would like nothing more than to see us fail in our efforts.

If our internalized loathing and unhealthy, underhanded opportunistic ways continue, we are bound to fail in our efforts to obtain the equal status so many of us crave.

If we do fail, or if our goals are delayed because of our actions, we will have to ask ourselves: “Was the bickering worth it? Was the legacy of rumors left in its wake our ultimate goal?”

I think not.

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  • From Another Point of View…

    In the Volume 2 Issue 18 of OMG Magazine, there was an Op/Ed piece penned by one "Alice Baggadoughnuts," entitled â€Å”Why Can't Equality Groups Work Together?” (this was HER title to the OP/ED Article – I have it from a RELIABLE sourceat OMG Magazine, that no editing occurred in Alice's article – it was printed as is!) "Alice's" article came on the heels of the September 2nd article in Watermark Online entitled â€Å”Pride On 7th Gets Mixed Reviews,” both articles collectively made me sit up and take notice.
    Please allow me to clarify from the onset, this is not an attack piece on any one person, is it just another point of view on a common theme that appears to be prevalent in our community these days – the lack of unity in OUR community!
    Having lived in Tampa for the past six years, I pride myself on being plugged into the LGBT community and have given of my time and talents relentlessly. I believe in our community and take pride in being a part of it.
    I understand that the First Amendment protects one's right to freely express an opinion, and I am fully aware of the idea that diversity of thought is what makes the LGBT community so strong in the first place. But having stated that preamble, I find myself asking the question, â€Å”When does one's opinion trample on what's in the best interested of the entire community? Perhaps the better question might be, When is enough, enough?”
    It has now surfaced that the original opinion piece was written by Bryan Arnette. Arnette expressed his PERSONAL opinions regarding what appears to be dissatisfaction with Equality Florida. Arnette used terms like â€Å”snipping, backstabbing and assumptions” Additionally, he goes on to say â€Å”that comments [should] be kept to oneself unless one involves themselves.” Arnette advocates â€Å”to walk the walk and actually know what's going on” in the community I would dare say, he meant to do this himself before voicing any negative opinions.
    I agree with Arnette on this basic point, but then the article turns into exactly what he is complaining about in the first place! The â€Å”work together” piece turned out to be a well researched attack on Equality Florida and the Hillsborough Democratic Caucus. My question, again, is: WHY? What was the necessity of this orchestrated attack, when cooperation is what he advocates. Where is the teamwork and unity here?
    Following the Inaugural Pride on 7th Avenue held at the Historic Tampa Heights Trolley Barn on the Hillsborough River Waterfront, much controversy followed regarding the venue, the organization, the â€Å”suggested” $10 admission donation, the oppressive heat, the lack of vendors, the poor marketing, and the lack of community support. Again, my question is, WHY? What purpose is served by the negativity and criticism?
    Arnette said in his article to â€Å”walk the walk,” I have no doubt in that on occasion he does just that. Having read between the lines, I sense that his frustration, just like mine, is over the lack of unity in our community.
    I had a recent conversation with a small business owner (a well known advocate of the LGBT Community and the GaYbor District Coalition)at their entertainment venue in Ybor and was somewhat surprised to hear that in the â€Å”allied” part of our community, UNITY does exist. The surrounding businesses all "cross promote" each other, and without all the drama! I was told directly by said Business owner, that if one of their â€Å”fold” acts out of line, they simply keep their mouths shut about it and continue to work for their unified front in Ybor City! Really?!? Cooperation and Unity in the business community, what a novel concept! You could have knocked me over with a feather!
    Look this isn't a matter of us versus them; this is a matter of UNITY and PRIDE in OUR community. We are the LGBT Community, and if we don't take pride in OURSELVES, who will? I agrre with Blanchard, there are plenty of factions

  • I guess the thing that confuses me Alice is that until you just confirmed it was you that wrote the article in omg magaizine no one knew who it was that wrote the aritcle.
    How was Steve suppose to contact you for your side of the story when all he knew was someone that liked donuts wrote to artice.
    I would be discussing those things with omg if they did change your name because that is really not kewl for them to do that.
    Changing your name most likely made alot of people not take you seriously which makes me wonder how serious omg magazine took your article.

  • I have some pretty severe doubts a publication would change the name on an articles like this without the author's notice. But then again, this is OMG we're talking about.. Intelligent decision may not be their strong point. For example, the headline on the article is "Why Can't Equality Groups Not Work Together." The "double negative" police should go an arrest someeone..

    Also, on a design note, someone should probably tell them they can stop using the font "Bebas" and switch to "Bebas Neue.." The font foundry fixed the HORRIBLE word spacing and also get it a lowercase set..

  • Steve, I agree that your op-ed was very well stated. I will admit that of late, we've found ourselves doing this odd 'keep to ourselves' thing to avoid all of the in-fighting.

    It's disturbing to think that we cannot come together to understand that there is strength in numbers and weakness in discord.

    On one hand there are outcries regarding the injustices facing the "community", but with all of the backstabbing, fighting and tearing down that has been occurring of late, we should be ashamed of using the term "community".

    Hopefully your very truthful and honest words will be far-reaching and effective.

  • Steve now I want to point out a few things in your very own editorial. Where you state condemning her without getting a comment. Now, I am the one who wrote this article in OMG and it was from my own personal witness of her actions and conversations with her, and the witness of emails from her and chats with her on Facebook I do have them all saved on my computer. So, my article was no where near hear say and untruths they were facts that happened. Now, I am the State Director for Stand Up Florida and I don't remember you even contacting us for a comment before writing this editorial so before posting a statement of condemning someone without a comment maybe you should follow your own words so that you don't look like a hypocrite. Now, as for the pen name that OMG decided to place on my article I had nothing to do with that. I actually have a copy of the email that I originally sent them informing them to put my name on it, only to discover they had used Alice Baggadonuts was a shock to me, but I was told it was changed for my best interest. I honestly could of cared less. My aritcle is from my own experiences with Nadine and if you read a little further Poor Poor Equality Florida was not the only group mentioned there was also the Hillsborough Dems mentioned so before putting out your own bicker for the sake of coming to Equality Florida's rescue maybe you should contact people and ask for a comment to investigate the story before writing your blog about it. Because I wrote the article I am not ashamed of it and never asked for the name to be placed there I do have the hard evidence of that along with the chats with Nadine on Facebook saved. I have no problem telling people how I feel. But yes you are correct in the bickering needs to stop but also so does the backstabbing and hypocricy.

  • Well said!